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Billionaire Riady family said to pursue United Engineers stake

[SINGAPORE] OUE Ltd, backed by the billionaire Riady family, plans to pursue a stake in Singapore property and construction firm United Engineers Ltd, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Singapore-listed OUE is interested in bidding for shares held by Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp and its affiliates, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the information is private. The formal sale process hasn't started yet and other parties could also express interest, another person familiar with the matter said.

OCBC and its insurance arm Great Eastern Holdings Ltd said last month they were reviewing options for their combined stakes in United Engineers. OCBC, Great Eastern and the bank's founding Lee family were working with an adviser to gauge interest in the company, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

A spokesman for OUE declined to comment.

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The Singapore firms and the Lee family own more than 30 per cent of United Engineers, the people said last month. Under Singapore rules, buying such a stake would trigger a mandatory takeover offer for United Engineers, which has a US$1.2 billion market value. Exclusive talks between OCBC and Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, Thailand's richest person, lapsed last year.

OUE, a property developer, has assets across Asia and the United States. The real estate company is the sponsor of OUE Hospitality Trust, a hotel REIT, and OUE Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust, an office landlord.

United Engineers has been selling non-core businesses and assets in recent years, including stakes in property management companies in China, an Indonesian steel fabrication firm and a Singapore wireless broadband provider last year. It said in February it was selling a US subsidiary Multi-Fineline Electronix Inc.